Non-binary gender – What’s in it for me?

The Intersex & Genderqueer Recognition Project (IGRP), the only legal organization in the U.S. to address the right of non-binary people to gender-self-identify on legal documents (founded in 2011) has seen an explosion of successes since June 2016. On 3/9/2017 we became a project of The Hub for Direct Community Action eligible for 501(c)3 tax deductible donations. We have received hundreds of requests for help getting people non-binary legal gender changes, and have been responsible for over 2/3 of the non-binary petitions granted in California.Genderqueer

I recently sent the following in an email response to a question from one prospective petitioner, and thought it was worth sharing:

The answer to “What precisely does changing my legal gender do for me?” is complicated.

  • For some people, the personal feeling of being validated means a lot (one petitioner walked out of their hearing with tears of joy running down their face).
  • For others, it’s a step towards changing their driver’s license (which is not possible for non-binary people yet, but will be soon, probably in both OR and CA)
  • …or their birth certificate (which depends on what state you were born in… currently there have been birth certificates revised to something other than M or F in NY, DC, OH, and MI, and we have paperwork submitted for several people in CA).
  • For some people they are excited to be one of the first, to have the opportunity to challenge the myth of the gender binary (and in the case of intersex people, the myth of sex being binary as well).
  • For some people, they are willing to be in the news, be interviewed, to speak out to their friends and families, or talk to the legislature to help pass SB-179.
  • For some they are willing to be a possible plaintiff in a future case against their state or the federal government to engage in “impact litigation” which will permanently change the laws and allow for equal recognition of all non-binary people.

What it means personally to you is up to you to decide. For you, maybe it’s better to wait until it becomes as easy as it is for binary trans people, and you can change all your ID at once. That may well be years off, if you are talking about Social Security records and Passports in the Federal government, and Birth Certificates and Drivers Licenses in every single state in the US.

This is kind of like the Marriage Equality movement (something I am extremely familiar with) where there was a strategy of starting in liberal states, and then “losing forward” in the middle of the country, and eventually getting rights in enough states to reach a “tipping point” and going to the US Supreme Court. Back in 2005 we called it our “2020 Vision,” which just goes to show how successful it was, since we won Obergefell in 2016.

IGRP is following a similar strategy to win Non-binary rights in the US. When the marriage movement was happening there were some people who wanted to wait, and that was what was best for them. There were other people who wanted to be in front of the issue, even if it meant heartbreak along the way (my wife and I were married to each other 5 times and were in the news constantly for years, and a lot of it was hard and painful.) Maybe you want to do that. Maybe you just want to get the court order now and apply for the drivers license when you can. Maybe you want to wait. You need to do what is right for YOU. We are here to support you in whatever that is.

Toby Adams, Attorney at Law / Pronouns: She, her
Executive Director/Legal Director
Intersex & Genderqueer Recognition Project (IGRP)


We’re Asking the Supreme Court to End Bi Erasure

A group of Bisexual Lawyers and Law Professors called “BiLaw,” of which I am a founding member, just submitted an Amicus Brief in the 4 marriage cases (click here to read the brief). I wrote the initial draft of the second section based on my paper and article published here previously. Professor Nancy Marcus wrote the first section, asking the Supreme Court to end bi erasure.

Two major points of the brief:
1) Bisexuals are not reflected in litigation for the rights of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. This brief urges the court to reverse this trend of bisexual exclusion.
2) Inclusion of bisexuals strengthens the argument that marriage bans should be subject to heightened scrutiny as sex discrimination.

About the campaign

A video campaign of interest to fellow bisexuals wishing to dispel the myth that it’s a phase: Still Bisexual

About the campaign.

How I’m Watching For SCOTUS Decision on Marriage

SCOTUSIt is 6:30am PST on Monday June 24. Today, again, we are waiting with bated breath for the decisions from SCOTUS (“Supreme Court Of The United States,” for the uninitiated) on the Windsor and Perry cases. They may be announced today at 7am PST (10am Eastern). Or they may be announced later this week on Thursday or another date added by the court.

Here is how I’m watching:

I have one browser window open to It is a live up to the second blog posted from the gallery of the Supreme Court on the decisions as they are announced.

I have another browser window open to Within seconds of the blog announcing an opinion is being released today I can hit reload and a link to an electronic version of the decision will be posted there.

Here is the blog post I wrote last Thursday about how it feels to wait for this:

Enjoy the excitement and watch with me!!!

Supreme Court Ruling on Marriage – It Could Be Today

This morning at 6:30am Pacific time we might find out the SCOTUS rulings on DOMA (Windsor v. ) and Prop 8 (Perry v.) … or not. I just woke up from a dream that I overslept, and when I’d awoken everyone else knew. I walked out into the street and tried to tell from the parades in the street what the ruling was. They weren’t celebratory. They weren’t devastated. They were hopeful. And that’s how I realized (in the dream) that all we knew at 6:30am was that we would find out that day. But we might really know the answer at 6:30am.

It’s 4:15. My dream woke me up at 3:45am and I finally realized only blogging about the marriage cases would get me back to sleep. Waiting for these rulings is not doing wonders for my sleep. Honestly, neither is the fact that I had a job interview yesterday, my house is going on the market this week, and I have to respond to some questions about my 2011 taxes in the next 7 days. There’s other stuff too. Kid’s health insurance issues. The usual stuff people have to deal with in life. I guess that’s the point, isn’t it? All of us have to deal with supporting our families, surviving the housing crisis, paying taxes, getting health care for our kids. But only those of us with same-sex spouses have to ALSO worry about whether our marriages will be validated under state and/or federal law, which, by the way, also affects our jobs, housing, taxes, and kids’ health care, among other things.

It’s been a long ten years.

WeddingOn July 19, 2003 I married my wife. Beautiful ceremony. You should have been there. But we only got a few rights under California Registered Domestic Partnership. That pissed me off enough to get active. I hadn’t been that active before, not in marriage equality. Not until I fell in love with the woman of my dreams and realized we were getting the short end of the stick compared to if, say, I had fallen in love with and married the man of my dreams. I’m bisexual, it could have happened. But it didn’t. The person of my dreams was a woman. So everything was that much harder.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) had been passed by Congress in 1996, keeping the US government or other states from being required to recognize any same-sex marriage that a state might allow. Not too long after our wedding Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex marriage. I’m from Boston. Unfortunately my wife was not about to move to Massachusetts. Something about shoveling snow. It’s not just that you can’t “take California out of the girl.” You really can’t take the girl out of California.

Fast forward 10 years. The California legislature had passed marriage bills several times only to have them vetoed by the governor. The California supreme court had ruled for marriage equality, thousands of couples got legally married (including my wife and me, on our 5 year anniversary), and then the voters passed Proposition 8 which forbid any more marriages while leaving those that already occurred legally intact. Not that our neighbors believed that. They all insisted that since Prop 8 had passed we weren’t really married. Not the law, but definitely the perception of many of our neighbors.

You can see where I’m going with this. Not only are Nine Very Important People about to decide whether the Federal Government has to treat my family as a real family, they are also about to decide whether the rest of California will believe our marriage really exists. And more importantly whether other same-sex couples will be allowed to marry legally in California. I really like going to weddings, and this could be a busy summer for weddings. Or not.

The possible outcomes are many. You can read more about them here: and

It’s after 5:30am. The sun is up, a little. In less than an hour the Supreme Court may announce that DOMA is unconstitutional and the Federal Government has to recognize my valid state marriage. It may announce that California isn’t allowed to grant the right to marry and then take it away on the discriminatory basis of a person’s sexual orientation or gender. It may very well say that they aren’t in the business of deciding these things and dismiss based on standing or as “improvidently granted.” If a decision comes today I will be at the Sacramento news conference at the LGBT Center and the rally on the on the west steps of the Capitol at 6pm:

Or it may not announce today. The Supreme Court may stay silent another day. And then we will wait until next Monday 6/24, or next Thursday 6/27. In which case I will go work on my house some more, and deal with the taxes, and spend time with my family… wondering if the decision will bring joy or tears. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some sleep.

I could have written a lot about the court, the precedents, and the possible legal outcomes. I’ve done so before. I will do so again. But when these cases wake me up in the middle of the night they come down to family, and being treated fairly instead of feeling bullied by the law, and whether today will bring joy or tears, parades of devastation or celebration … or possibly just more confusion.

p.s. It’s 7:18am Pacific… the court announced 3 opinions. None are the marriage cases. No more decisions today. It’s time to go get some sleep… or drink a lot of caffeine and get busy with my day… I’m not sure which.

Hold the Line: Teenagers Don’t Learn On Time

My daughter is 12. She has been “pushing the boundaries” of the rules of our house and her school lately.  I had this song lyric in the back of my mind… Hold the Line… something something something. Couldn’t remember the band or the rest of the song.

HoldTheLine-TotoThe next day, still thinking about this problem I was having with my kid and trying to remember to just “hold the line,” I turned on the radio and there it was playing loud and clear. Toto. “Hold the Line… Dah da da da… Love isn’t always on time… Whoa whoa whoa…” The words fit so perfectly to how things were going with the kid. It’s not in the way that I hold her, or the way I say care, or how I’ve been treating her friends, or even that I stay til the end…

What helps my kid learn what she needs to learn in life, what I am trying to teach her, is that I hold the line. Like army generals calling on the troops to “hold the line.” This is the ground I will not surrender. No matter how much I am fired upon. No matter how scared I am. No matter how much easier it would be to back off and give in and let her take over that territory. I hold the line.

If you refuse to do your homework,
I will not give you the treat you are hoping for.
If you yell at me,
I will not back down and let you have your way.
If you have “intolerable” behavior,
I will not allow you any tv or computer or other fun stuff for the rest of the day.
The rules are the rules and they will remain the rules. Your world is safe, it is predictable, and what we expected yesterday is what we expect today. The rewards for good behavior will be what they have been in the past. The consequences for bad behavior will be what they have been.

It’s not in the words that I tell my girl. It’s not in the way I look or the things that I say that I’ll do.

It’s what I actually do. Stand there. Don’t budge. Hold the line. No matter how many years she has known the rules, she will break the rules, and it’s my job to remind her they are still there.

Hold the line… Teenagers don’t learn on time… Whoa whoa whoa…

Still job hunting? Keep swimming…

Just-Keep-Swimming-JobI posted this graphic on Facebook the other day:

Dory has to swim the entire ocean. Her advice? “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…” kinda sing-songy, and with a goofy smile.

I didn’t do it to get a laugh, or because I thought someone else needed to hear the message. I did it because I needed to hear the message. ME.


But it’s not just me. Everybody (even non-legal folks) is probably aware there is a glut of law school grads and very few lawyer jobs to go around. And everybody is definitely aware of all the people, all kinds of people, who are out of work and are still job hunting.

Not you? Probably one of your friends. Think for 5 seconds… yup, that guy… that gal… you know the one. Still looking.

Everybody has advice. Look here. Look there. Do this. Do that.

This is my advice: you know what to do already. Just keep doing it. Don’t give up. Don’t EVER give up.

Sofa-fortWell, maybe for a day. I give up about one day every few weeks. I get depressed. I watch TV all day. This is what I posted to “close friends and family only” the last time that happened: “looking for a job sucks.  wondering how to pay rent or buy food sucks… I think I will stay in my pajamas on the sofa all day and watch as many episodes of some TV show in a row as I can. maybe West Wing (so I can pretend I work there) or some sci fi thing (so I can completely escape this planet).” It’s ok to take ONE day off, and to share this stuff with your close friends and family. Not so much in “public” posts that will be read by potential employers.

To be clear: I only just started looking, really. It looks bad because I’ve been out of school since May, but it’s not like I’ve been job hunting diligently since May.

Most top 15% law students like I am who want the kind of job I want (public interest) look for jobs like this: Law Review, summer internship, get fellowship sponsor, submit fellowship applications and judicial clerkship applications in September, graduate in May, take July bar, start Fellowship/Clerkship in August. Celebrate bar results in November.

What I did was this: juggle special needs child and law school classes, no time for Law Review (required for most judicial clerkships), intern in the fall and spring while kid is in school, miss fellowship deadlines in September, graduate in May, take July bar, deal with kid starting 7th grade in August while I worked a godsend part time contract job at a small firm where they didn’t mind that my kid was being suspended every other day requiring me to leave work and go pick her up, miss deadlines for fellowship applications AGAIN, get kid switched to school where she is doing well and staying in school so I can finally work full time (whew!)

Last month when the part time contract job ran out of work for me I got serious with job hunting. Serious as in: Monday-Friday 9am-5pm I job hunt. I job hunt like I studied for the bar only not quite as many hours (I did pass, by the way).

Make a list. Execute the list. Don’t stop. Don’t think about passing (getting hired). Just keep executing the list. Do the footwork. Let god/fate/whatever take care of the results. If I get worried, I just keep swimming.


DO EPIC SHIT (even though it doesn’t pay) –

The other advice I have, beside “keep on swimming,” is Do Epic Shit. I add “even though it doesn’t pay.” Volunteer for a really great project. It IS ok to post about THIS in public posts that potential employers will see. Get your name out there. But even more importantly: keep your spirits up by remembering that you are a force of awesomeness! I do this blog (especially my legal writing) to keep active in my field, and I volunteer for the One-Day-Divorce-Clinic (and even got to be on TV doing it). It’s kind of like the “do what you love” saying, without “the money will follow.” Because the money only follows if you keep job hunting too. Don’t volunteer so much that you forget to keep job hunting.

Also, don’t spend TOO much time on Social Media(tm). Schedule yourself a little break to chat online, read my awesome blog, and then log off and get back to job hunting work. Like I am doing. Right. This. Minute.